September 14th, 1982

It has been many years since I have written in this journal; I found it collecting dust on the floor behind the small bookshelf next to my desk. Thinking back, I remember that I stuffed it behind there frantically when those who pretend to be civilians came knocking at our door. When they burst in, they yelled obscenities at me and disrespected my wife, they roughly searched our house for “subversive materials”, and they apprehended me without charges for several weeks. On the way to where they eventually held me, they forced me onto the floor of the van and kicked me in the stomach and the head. I was disoriented and I did not know where I was, but I think it was a police station. During questioning, I was tied naked to a metal frame and shocked with an electric prod. They kept asking me about the ‘leftist activities’ of a coworker from my newspaper who I knew only peripherally, but I saw him later that same week in the detention center. We made eye contact for a split second before they took him to be tortured, and the image of his petrified, bloodshot, petrified eyes has been engrained in my memory ever since. I didn’t see him again after that, but I heard him alright, his agonized shrieks drill piercing my ears for multiple hours. I felt like I was going to lose my mind…I thought they were going to kill me too. And then soon after without rhyme or reason they let me go, just like that.

When I got out they had closed the newspaper I was employed with because it was politically officiated with the Christian Democratic Party. I had a very hard time speaking to Maria or Emily for a while, it was as if they had planted an insidious turmoil inside my spirit making it impossible to think, to love, to do anything. I was jobless for a while which put tremendous strain on our family financially, but I ended up finding work as an accountant again, and as a grocer part time. From then until now, we have all tried to normalize living as much as possible as Chile has become a more and more disorienting place. That’s all we seem to be capable of, just pretending everything is fine. Even as we see people yanked off of buses with vanquished expressions on their faces, as they burn piles of books in the street, as Pinochet parades around on TV with his militaristic festivities, passing self serving legislation with no one to oppose him, we are all petrified into silence.

While, Pinochet has a vice grip on all of us Chileans but he and his cronies don’t seem to be good at much else besides oppression. The economy has gone downhill significantly lately: the peso has inflated, banks are going bankrupt, and multiple companies and corporations have gone out of business.

Maria and I have been arguing a lot lately. Who’s going to start working another job? How we are going to continue sending Emily to school? Should we should try abandon Chile and go someplace far away? Can we?  I want what’s best for Emily, I don’t want her to have to keep growing up in this environment which seems to sap the life and sustenance out of everything, where all emotion and thought is anesthetized. Everything is wrapped in uncertainty.

1 thought on “September 14th, 1982

  1. ssvolk says:

    I’m so sorry to hear what happened to you, Francisco. It must have been a terrible experience, and it’s clear that it still is having an impact on your life, and your relationship to your wife and Emily. I can only hope that you’ll begin to find some source of inspiration in the new movements against Pinochet that seem to have sprung up after the economy went into the toilet. I’ve said this for too many years, but maybe now we can get rid of him. I remember back a few weeks after the coup when I hoped that the military would soon turn over power to the civilians – we’re still waiting. Cuídate, hermano!

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